DANIEL C. BREITHAUPTMore and more literature is being produced concerning the necessity of discipleship within the Christian church. Much of this literature also offers potential methodologies and designs for reaching the desired goal. In preparing a philosophy for personal disciple-making, one must first come to the understanding that, as a follower or disciple of Christ, there is a mandate to be a disciple-maker of others. This mandate is found within the pages of Holy Scripture, with the very words of Jesus Christ; and, just as there is the mandate to make disciples of others, there is also the model which naturally provides the philosophy necessary for becoming a disciple maker.
Christ provides his disciples throughout the ages with the mandate for being disciple makers in some of His final instructions before ascending to the Father. Matthew 28:18-20 records Jesus’ instructions, “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (ESV). Within these verses commonly known as the Great Commission is found the mandate of being disciple makers. Within Jesus’ declaration of authority is the revelation of His deity. Only God possesses all authority in heaven and on earth, thus the mandate to make disciples is made by none other than the divine God the Son.
Within the mandate of the Great Commission is also found the model for discipleship. Authentic discipleship, much like accurately throwing a baseball, requires focus and follow-through. The focus comes from Christ’s command in the aforementioned text to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19, ESV). This requires Christ’s disciples to be active. Disciple-making requires effort and action, just like throwing a baseball requires effort and action. Disciples are not passive about serving the Lord. Intentionality is also required. Disciple-making requires action with purpose. Christians can go on mission trips providing goods and services to the world’s population until Christ’s return without ever winning a single soul to Christ or growing one disciple unless the intent to make disciples accompanies their actions. Disciple-makers are focused.
Disciple-makers are also commanded to follow through. In the modern Church, just getting its membership to evangelize the lost around them is considered a victory, but this falls short of the biblical model within the mandate. Christ’s Great Commission to His disciples speaks of baptism, where disciple-makers evangelize the lost producing regeneration as evidenced by baptism, but the model does not conclude with baptism. Christ commands that the regenerant be taught all that He has commanded during His earthly ministry, thus Christ’s disciples follow through until they have nurtured babes in Christ to maturity. Disciples follow through to produce the next generation of disciple-makers. Paul echoes this aspect of Christ’s model in his letter to the church at Ephesus when he states that church leaders must, “equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13, ESV). Paul’s instructions reveal that disciple-makers equip, build up, and strengthen the body of Christ for ministry by bringing them to maturity and unite them with all other believers in the fullness of the faith and knowledge of Christ. This requires Christ’s disciples to display a faithful commitment of patience and endurance, also known as follow through.
The modern culture is one of convenience and instant gratification. If what one desires requires more than pushing a button or taking a pill it is probably too difficult to achieve. This skewed view of reality also affects the Church as well. Is there a mandate for Christ’s disciples to be disciple-makers? Absolutely there is. Jesus Christ, God the Son, demands that His disciples are to be disciple-makers. Is there a model for ministry? Christ’s own words reveal that, as disciple-making disciples, the Church must be focused through intentional action as well as be patient and faithful to follow through in producing the next generation of disciple-making disciples.
DANIEL C. BREITHAUPT, Pastor Beulah Baptist Church